• [Food Post] Tsujiri Toronto

    Tsujiri Toronto's first North American outpost opened earlier this week near Bay and Dundas amid much fanfare. This is their first foray into a market outside Asia, but they are planning on expanding to other cities in North America in the future. I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek of some of the products that Tsujiri Toronto has to offer a day before its soft opening, and got the chance to chat with one of the managers, Tylor Shek.

  • [Food Post] Nordstrom Eaton Centre Opening Gala featuring Daniel et Daniel

    The gala opening epitomizes what Nordstrom is all about - great customer service and consistency of the brand. Hence why they partnered with Daniel et Daniel to be the official caterer of the Nordstrom Opening Gala, as both companies share the same ideals and business ethics.

  • [Food Post] Waterloo Food Tour

    The Region of Waterloo is home to many regions that inspire start-ups (such as Thalmic Labs), housing, and of course many restaurants. The Region is developing and propelling a movement alike many urban areas, by bringing innovative ideas and talented people together, whilst keeping the scenic and spacious rural landscape. Andrew Coppolino of www.waterlooregioneats.com (@WatRegionEats on Twitter) gave us a tour on behalf of Waterloo Region Tourism, with 4 set destinations in mind for the day.

  • [Food Post] Ebisu on Queen / Ebisu Toronto

    Ebisu Japanese Restaurant originated from Vancouver, as its first location opened in December of 2006. There are two locations in Vancouver and one in Richmond, along with two restaurants under the Kamei names. The brand itself is very well-known in Vancouver, and they hope to expand it in Toronto with this new outpost.

  • [Food Post] Dave and Buster's Oakville Grand Opening

    However, over the last two decades, much has changed, including the demise of arcade and game centers due the emergence of mobile phones and Netflix. The health movement over the last six years has also made Dave and Buster's traditional burger and fries menu far less appealing than what it was. With that being said, they have changed their food menu, and the options are now more diverse. The menu is rather extensive with items like shareable appetizers, side salads, beef steaks and ribs, pasta, sandwiches, and so much more.

  • [Food Post] Morals Village Mississauga

    Morals Village is a hot pot restaurant chain with over 600 locations in China. They opened their first Canadian location in 2015, and has since grown at a relatively rapid pace. About 1.5 weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Morals Village Mississauga Grand Opening Event. The Mississauga location is their 5th Canadian location, and they have plans to open another in Ottawa. With that being said, Morals Village prides themselves in providing top-notch quality and Szechuan cuisine influenced flavour with their hot pot offering.

  • [Event] The Royal Dinner with Chef Michael Bonacini

    The Royal Winter Agricultural Fair is now open until November 13, 2016 at the Exhibition Place, Toronto. Start the holiday season early by attending one of the largest combined indoor agricultural fairs and international equestrian competitions in the world. The fair takes place every November in Toronto, and it is where guests can enjoy the best in agriculture, local food, and equestrian competitions from across the country. There are so many things to do, and see at this year's The Royal Winter Agricultural Fair.

  • [Food Post] CNE Media Preview 2016

    Every Sunday, Montecito offers a brunch buffet starting at 11 am to 3 pm. Brunch isn't new at Montecito, but they recently revamped their brunch buffet, and added several new items to the menu. The 12,000-square-foot Montecito opened up its doors late 2014, and is a partnership between Hollywood director Ivan Reitman and Chef Jonathan Waxman.

  • [Travel] Satsuki and Mei's House from Totoro

    My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 animated production written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It's a childhood favorite of many people and I have seen many shops dedicated to selling Totoro merchandise while in Japan.

  • [Travel] Day #15 in Japan [Koyasan]

    A shukubo is an accommodation that allows you to stay in a Japanese temple or shrine for the night, and enables you to experience the culture. You are given your own personal room, and there are multiple washroom facilities throughout the temple.

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Akira Back Toronto

Celebrity chef Akira Back's first Canadian namesake restaurant is now open in the Bisha Hotel Toronto.  Located inside of the luxury boutique hotel, the restaurant offers a menu of Japanese cuisine with Korean flavors and Canadian twist. We had the pleasure of attending a media preview at Akira Back Toronto last week, where we were treated to a tasting menu of some of his best dishes. 

I was looking forward to the opening of his restaurant when it was announced earlier this summer. Akira Back has a growing reputation in the hospitality industry for the creativity that he brings to his culinary creations. Back's food is inspired by his passions for adventure, travel and culinary exploration. "Each of his restaurants features inventive menus that embody his life and travel inspirations throughout the world, representing the root of his culture and his culinary background in every dish. Akira Back is one of the most exciting names in the culinary world, growing rapidly across major international". (credit: press release) 

“Toronto is a cultural epicentre with a diverse and multi­cultural food scene, which is why I always hoped to have a restaurant here,” says Chef Akira Back. “The menu will feature a number of my signature dishes along with some new ones that were inspired by my time spent in the city.” - Akira Back
Throughout his career, he has many culinary successes, including being awarded the title of “Rising Star” by Restaurant Hospitality (2008) and has had the distinct honor of hosting the prestigious James Beard House dinners (2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012, 2013 & 2014). Besides having restaurants in the USA, he has opened several overseas locations such as Akira Back Restaurants in Singapore, New Delhi and Jakarta.

Walking into the restaurant, I was in awe by the space as it paid homage to traditional Japanese culture with contemporary ornamentation. "Subtle nods to Japanese culture will appear through refined and intimate details which balance the central design feature, a full­-length cove ceiling showcasing a colourful custom graphic". The overall interiors contain several neutral elements with bold wooden decor, which creates an intimate yet classy environment that appeals to a wide range of diners.

The menu at Akira Back Toronto features a number of his signature dishes, along with several new ones that were inspired by his visit to Canada. The tasting menu that night consists of five courses with wine pairings that perfectly complement each specific dish. 

[First Course] 

Tuna & Mushroom Pizza - truffle oil, micro shiso

[Second Course] 

Jeju Domi - orange tobiko, red sorrel, chojang

Salmon Tiradito - roasted peaches, Kizami wasabi, spinach cilantro

[Third Course] 

Eggplant Miso - sweet miso sauce

Rock Shrimp - sriracha ranch

(photo credit: @akirabacktoronto)

[Fourth Course] 

Seared Halibut - mushrooms, soy beurre blanc,

(photo credit: @akirabacktoronto)

48 Hour Wagyu Short Rib - root vegetables, quail egg, braising jus


Black & White Sesame Matcha Cake - salted agave ice cream

Yuzu Citrus - sable crumble, strawberry gelato 

“Akira Back is an extremely talented chef on the cusp of exploding internationally and we’re excited that Bisha will be his first location in Canada. After interviewing many recognized chefs over a three­year period, I felt that Akira Back’s talent and uniqueness would be the perfect match for Bisha Toronto to make it a complete hospitality experience,” says Charles Khabouth, Chairman, ICONINK. (credit: press release) 

Akira Back Toronto is definitely a welcoming addition to the city of Toronto for its visionary dishes that encompasses the combination of Asian and North American cuisine.

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

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Dinner @ JaBistro's Rooftop Patio

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a media tasting at JaBistro. I have been here on three occasions, and it has remained one of my favorite sushi spots in Toronto. JaBistro is a modern Japanese restaurant known for their beautifully presented sashimi platters, and blowtorched sushi. Established in November 2012, JaBistro has remained a popular choice for many when it comes to choosing a premier sushi restaurant to dine at. Additionally, the restaurant is part of the Kinka Family, who also owns other establishments in the city, including Kinton Ramen, Yakitori Kintori, and Kinka Izakaya.  

Both of my previous dinners took place during the winter time (third experience was lunch), so I was not aware that JaBistro had a rooftop patio. The patio is open every summer until it gets too cold, as they don't have any overhead heat system. JaBistro's Rooftop Patio was tastefully designed with its sleek use of wood, and string lights. It provided a more zen ambiance compared to their dining space downstairs. The patio seats 40 guests, with the possibility of using the eastern (direction) side of 20 seats for private functions.

JaBistro offers a more elevated dining experience by offering both classic and contemporary dishes that are sourced using the finest, and freshest dish from coastal waters around the world. We started off our menu tasting with the first course, a beautifully plated sashimi platter accompanied with a glass of wine. JaBistro did not disappoint me with their selection, and the sashimi platter was a great indication of the rest of the meal. The sashimi was silky, buttery, and fresh.

Course 1 - Sashimi Platter + Cava Sampling

Akami - blue fin tuna loin (Japan), Tai - sea bream (Japan), Wagyu Beef (US), and Salmon (Canada)

Course 2 - Appetizer Platter

Kanpachi Kama (fish collar), Ebi Nanban (battered tiger shrimp), Ika (calamari), and lobster miso soup

The kanpachi kama (fish collar) was a great introductory course, and we both enjoyed the fish head very much. To be honest, we didn't expect the head to contain so much meat, so it was a welcomed surprise.

The platter also came with 2 jumbo pieces of ebi nanban (battered tiger shrimp), which I quickly ate. I liked that the tartar sauce was available on the side instead of glazed on the shrimp as they were on my previous visit, as the shrimps are already sweet in flavor. You can order the ebi nanban from the bistro menu for $14, and it comes with 6 pieces.

Course 3 - Nigiri & Aburi (blowtorced)

Hamachi (yellowtail) from Japan, Chu Toro (medium fatty tuna belly) from Japan, Lobster from Halifax, Salmon Oshizushi, Saba Oshizushi (mackerel), Ebi (tiger shrimp), and JaBistroll (salmon, snow crab, uni, cucumber, tobiko).

Up next was a platter containing chef’s choice of 3 nigiri, and 4 oshizushi, including one of my favorites, the JaBistro Roll. The JaBistro Roll is a signature roll filled with salmon, snow crab, uni, cucumber, tobiko, mayo, and then lightly torched. Additionally, the uni provided a nice creamy texture to the roll, which I really enjoyed.

Oshizushi is pressed sushi, and is made by pressing sushi rice and fish into a mould to create a rectangular shape, and then lightly seared with a blowtorch. The oshizushi sushi are topped off with different toppings to give each one a distinct taste. For example, the salmon was topped off with thin slices of jalapeño, while the mackerel was topped with scallion and daikon radish. Additionally, all the aburi are already seasoned with their in-house soy sauce, and wasabi. My favorite was the salmon oshizushi, and it is one of my must-have dishes.

Course 4 - Dessert

Mousse cake with vanilla ice-cream

We ended the night off with dessert; a delectable green tea flavored mousse cake with vanilla ice-cream. The chocolate sponge cake was layered with creamy and light green tea mousse, and topped off with strawberries. This combination created a very airy cake with subtle sweetness. Perfect for those who aren't into super sweet desserts. If you like sweets, then the accompanied ice-cream should satisfied that craving.

JaBistro is a great place for business meals, dates, or special occasions. Overall, JaBistro is a great place to dine for its quality food, attentive service, and we had an enjoyable dining experience up on their rooftop patio. They are open for lunch Monday-Fri from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and dinner from Sun-Thurs (5 pm to 11 pm), and Fri-Sat (5 pm to 12 am).

Address: 222 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1W4

Social Media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jabistro222
Instagram: http://instagram.com/JaBistro222
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jabistro222
Website: http://www.jabistro.com/

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

JaBistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Wine Academy Toronto

Wine Academy (IG @wineacademyto) is a new private members club in the heart of the Financial District. I had the pleasure of attending their launch party where we were treated to passed canapés with some wines. Guests also got the chance to have a tour of the wine cellar, which was pretty imposing.

The Wine Academy is located underground on the corner of Bay and Richmond. It's a place where wine aficionados and casual drinkers alike have the opportunity to taste and store their wine collection in a sprawling multi-storied, uber-chic, and ultra-urban 6000+ square foot space. The space itself was beautifully decorated with wood, and the perfect space for private events, business meetings, or social functions. Additionally, the location that now houses Wine Academy used to be a gym, and the foundation of the old interior was basically kept. However, the designers spruced it up to create a more industrial yet classic interior. The natural finishes are mixed with some metals and wood to create a rather warm environment; one that is great to relax in.

** All photography of the interior are taken by Jimmy Li courtesy of Wine Academy **

Wine Academy came from the idea of creating a space where friends, clients and colleagues who appreciate dining out, entertaining and being social could come together,” said Aaron Joseph Bear Robe, Managing Partner and Executive Chef atWine Academy. “And, since food and wine are two of the most ubiquitous enjoyments life has to offer, The Wine Academy aimed to create a social club that celebrates just that.  (source: http://www.wineacademy.ca/)

A personal Wine Academy membership costs $1000.00 annually, and the monthly cost of a wine storage unit is $150. The wine cellar is safe, and secure with multi-level security check to ensure that the wines are safely stored (integrated HVAC system controls temperature and humidity uniformly).

Lastly, it's not all about the wines, as Wine Academy also offers a selection of locally sourced internationally inspired dishes. The kitchen is headed by Executive Chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe (Keriwa Cafe) who brings forth a menu highlighting various flavors.

Book a tour (available Monday-Friday from 8 am to 9 pm) today to check out the facility. 

Address: 67 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON M5H 1Z5

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a media luncheon at Mistura. It's a lovely upscale restaurant that serves contemporary Italian cuisine. Mistura is run by a long-time restaurateur, Paolo Paolini, who has owned several restaurants throughout the years including the critically-acclaimed Splendido, which he sold in 1996. Soon after his departure from Splendido, he opened Mistura with Chef Massimo Capra in 1997 to positive reviews. The restaurant has been in business for 19 years, and is still thriving today as a result of their ever-changing menus, and warm hospitality.

Mistura is all about proving a pleasant dining experience, as they care about the quality of the food, and
hospitality. As a result of their efforts, Mistura was awarded the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina in December 2015 for their Italian cuisine.

Chef Massimo Capra no longer helms the kitchen, and has passed it on to Chef Klaus Rohrich, who has worked in the kitchen of Mistura and Sopra for several years. Chef Klaus Rohrich may not be Italian, but he certainly knows how to take simple Italian cooking methods, and elevate it. With that being said, the menu at Mistura draws inspiration from traditional Italian cooking, but combines it with local, seasonal ingredients when possible. The menu changes seasonally, and we got a taste of the new spring menu at the luncheon.

Prior to our meal, we were treated to an array of small bites including a selection of Chef Klaus' signature charcuterie, pistachio infused mortadella, capicollo, bresaola, lonza affumicata.

My favorite starter was the crispy gulf shrimp and cantaloupe trusses, which were delectable. The sweet sauce and cantaloupe trusses were the perfect complement to the lightly coated shrimp.

We were treated to a plate containing a trio of appetizers; the balsamic glazed Ontario lamb riblets coupled with minted yoghurt, Ontario wild boar agnolotti in sundried sour cherry jus, and crispy fried artichoke with "gribiche". I would definitely come back just to order a platter of the Ontario lamb riblets, as it was that good. Normally, I find lamb hard to eat, as it's quite tough and potent sometimes. However, the Ontario lamb riblets served at Mistura were surprisingly tender, and the sticky Balsamic glazed perfectly coated the ribs.

Next up was a refreshing salad, radicchio salad - with apples, Asiago, pomegranate, black walnuts, and empire apple cider vinaigrette. The richly scented Asiago cheese combined with the sweetness of the apples, and pomegranate make this a very interesting combination dish.

Chef Klaus Rohrich delivers a delicious entree; ballotine of organic free range chicken, squash puree, roasted brussels sprout leaves, roasted buttercup squash and butter sage crackling. The chicken was cooked perfectly, and sat in a layer of velvety-like squash puree. I also really enjoyed the butter sage crackling, as it provided a nice crunch to the dish.

Lunch was rather filling, but we ended the lunch with the Mistura Inverted Cassata for dessert. It was a refreshing dessert, and rather light as well. Great way to end a meal!

Despite it being a fine-dining establishment, Paolo Paolini prides himself on providing a warm and upscale atmosphere with no hint of pretentiousness. All of the staff members are friendly, quick without being too overbearing that you feel rushed. Private functions are also available as Mistura has two private dining rooms. Additionally, the upstairs level of the restaurant is Sopra, the second-floor event space which can seat up to 110 people.

Address: 265 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON M5R 1J9

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mistura_sopra/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MisturaSopra
Website: http://mistura.ca/

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Mistura Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Nota Bene Restaurant (Q&A with Chef David Lee)

Nota Bene is one of Queen St's most notable and popular restaurants since it first opened in 2008. The restaurant recently underwent a complete space renovation, and relaunched their menu this past February. They contracted +tongton to redesign their dining room, and it now feature mounted tumble weeds, hanging wine rack, and tree trunks that are oiled using the method of Shou Sugi Ba. The new look inspires a more earthy and nature concept. I also noticed that it's much more approachable now as they have removed the dark tinted windows that stare onto Queen St. According to Executive Chef David Lee, the new menu has evolved with a heavy emphasis on seafood and vegan/vegeterian dishes. The dishes are mainly inspired by David Lee's extensive world travels, and his recent interests in catering to veganism.

I was given the opportunity to do an interview with Chef David Lee (owner and executive chef of Nota Bene) after dinner.

First off, I want to congratulate you on Nota Bene ranking #12 on 2015 Canada's 100 Best Restaurants this year. Do you have anything to add? Thank you! We're very proud that we have been here for 7 years. It's a lot of hard work and dedication to our craft in what we do. I think the next stage of Nota Bene is definitely going to be a progression in terms of what we've done, and to think of what is next for us.

 What was the main reason for the restaurant relaunch earlier this February? I think the timing was right, and this was pretty much a progression of what we do. This was the first time where I had the restaurant to myself (note: he had a couple of partners before), and I felt that the restaurant needed a new identity.

I noticed while scanning around the room that the demographics of the patrons are a little older. How are you trying to attract the younger generation (aka millennials like myself)? In terms of the younger crowds - we have a great bar for casual affairs. We also offer a great 4-7 snack menu and the dining menu is for those looking for something more evolved. So, there's something for everyone.

What is the secret to your staying power in an ever-changing culinary landscape in Toronto? That's a good question, I don't know if I can answer that. However, I think it's because we're true and honest to our craft, as we believe in what we do. As long as there is progression and sensibility; we will never lose focus in what we're trying to achieve. I guess that's why we're still around.

Why did you choose to become a Chef? I guess it was a very natural path for me. I was also inspired by both my grandparents and parents - they are great chefs within their groups. I learned a lot about cooking from my culture, and I was taught to respect the ingredients from a very young age. Nothing was taken for granted while growing up.

In terms of the new menu - what would you say was the biggest inspiration behind it? I think we went for a very clean approach in terms of some of the items. Honestly, the seasonality is extremely important to us at Nota Bene. The moment that you get the season changing, we also change up the menu based on the seasons.

I read that you worked in a Michelin starred restaurant in the past. Did you take anything from that experience and apply it to owning your own restaurant? This was a while back in the 80's, so it was a very different dining scene. So in terms of the Michelin starred, you don't get to sleep much and you work a lot. The evolution in what you're striving for is pretty incredible and special. However, it's hard to apply my experience to today as it's different now in the sense of how the world thinks of the food.

What is your passion that allows you to wake up everyday and put this much dedication to your culinary craft? My family - absolutely! I have two families (the one at Nota Bene and the other one at home). I guess when it comes down to it - I also love what I do, and it drives me.

 What was the biggest challenge that you faced when doing the relaunch of the menu and space? I don't know as it has only been a couple of weeks. There are still hurdles that we're trying to figure out. However, we are still striving to do better everyday, so it's a work in progress at this stage. One of the  previous challenges was getting the restaurant done in time as we completely renovated the restaurant. Another is encouraging people to come out of their comfort zone, and try something new off the menu. There has been guests who have coming here for years looking for the same thing - so it's all about finding that balance. We're trying to keep the menu accessible, but still encouraging patrons to try new items.

Lastly, I have quite a few friends who are home cooks, and they inspired to be in the food industry. What advice would you give to home chefs who are inspired by your style, and your cooking? I think that if they're very serious about it, then they should knock on restaurants' doors. They should try to get an opportunity to work in the back of the kitchen as a start. There, they will be able to observe, and get a feel of what it's like to work in a kitchen environment.

It should be noted that the bar was also given a facelift, and the space is now larger. My evening started off with some light snacking at the bar where I was introduced to Nota Bene's bar snacks menu, which showcase several snacks for $4 each between 4 pm to 7 pm (Monday to Friday) - $7 after 7 pm. Also available on their menu is a small selection of smaller plates recommended for sharing for $12 each. The entire 4-7 menu caters very well to those who seek to partake in unwinding after work before dinner with their friends or colleagues.

Salt Code Fritters ($4 between 4-7, and $7 after 7 pm)

Crisp Pork Cheek ($4 between 4-7, and $7 after 7 pm)

 Puffed Beef Tendon ($12)


Suckling Pig Green Papaya Slaw ($12)

I also got to sample a few new dishes from Nota Bene Restaurant's relaunched menu. Please note that all of the dishes pictured below are sample sizes, and the main dishes are bigger (portion-wise). Nota Bene is open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday).

I don't eat vegetarian dishes often, but the Heirloom Cookstown Carrots ($16) - sunflower “sour cream”, kale, Malaysian red curry oil, channa dal, hemp hearts, stimulated my taste buds. 

 8 hr. Roasted Celeriac ($14) - crema, caramelized blood orange, rosemary

There are a few new Japanese-inspired dishes on the menu like this “Tsukiji Fish Market” Sashimi Plate, as Chef David Lee likes the clean flavor profile of Japanese cuisine. The fish are directly sourced from Japan's Tsukiji Fish Market, and the sake pairing complements the sashimi. Note that the platter is available Thursday to Saturday only.

The Hamachi Ceviche ($17) - clam & tomato jelly, leche de tigre, charred scallion, pickled cucumber was a beautifully presented, colorful, and delicious dish. 

St. Canut Farms Suckling Pig ($32) -  Savoy cabbage, Boudin Noir sauce, Kozlik’s mustard

 Wild Halibut Filet ($37) - lima bean mash, shiitake "bacon", black garlic, gremolata

The Chocolate Ganache "Fleur de Sel” ($12) - caramelized milk powder, toasted marshmallow, seabuckthorn, milk ice cream, was a more elevated take on the classic s'mores. I enjoyed the contrasting flavor profile of the dark chocolate with the light milk ice cream.

The Rhubarb Compôte ($13) - avocado sorbet, dried fruit & nut granola was one of the new vegan dessert options; simply light and refreshing.

I had an enjoyable and satisfying meal sampling some of Nota Bene's new dishes. It was a busy Thursday evening, and I liked that there was an abundance of staff on the floor. Overall, the service was friendly, and prompt without being overly intrusive. I am happy to have visited the new and updated Nota Bene, and will happily return. 

Address: 180 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 3X3

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NotaBeneToronto
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/notabenetoronto/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NotaBeneToronto
Website: https://notabenerestaurant.com/

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Nota Bene Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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